CDPCKL · The End of the Apocalypse (1 Peter 4:12-19)

The End of the Apocalypse (1 Peter 4:12-19)

Early in his career as a prophet, Ezekiel had a terrible nightmare of a vision: the Spirit of God lifted him up between earth and heaven and carried him to the temple in Jerusalem. And the first thing he saw there was the glory of God shining from the very center of the temple, shining from the holiest place on earth at that time.

But that wasn’t the nightmare part. No, the nightmare part was what he saw next: in the northern gateway of the temple courtyard a monstrous idol had been set up to oversee the sacrifices performed at the altar.

But the nightmare vision does not end there. The Spirit brings Ezekiel right into the inner courtyard of the temple, the place where only priests are allowed to go, the room just outside the holiest place on earth. And there he sees the 70 elders of Israel leading worship in the darkness. But instead of worshiping the glory of God, they are praying to all kinds of crawling things and unclean animals and all the idols of Israel, and each elder has set up his own little shrine where he can worship the specific god of his choice. And in the doorway of that dark room, 25 priests are bowing down in worship. But instead of facing into the temple, to worship the presence of God in the holiest place, they are facing outward — facing eastward — to worship the rising sun.

And as Ezekiel stands there, completely horrified at all this, the glory of God leaves the innermost chamber and moves to the outer doorway and begins to pass judgement: he calls for six angels, armed with swords, and commissions them to destroy the city.

But before he sends them, he calls a seventh angel, armed with a pen, and says, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” And then God tells the six warrior angels to follow the other angel, and to kill everyone who does not receive a mark. But he specifically says: “Start right here: begin at my sanctuary.”

So judgement began with the elders who were right there, in front of the temple. And the angels worked their way outward from that point, filling the temple courts with the slain and then passing out through the gates to continue their work throughout the city.

And Ezekiel finds himself standing alone — with God — in the center of a sea of dead bodies, the only living man left on the temple grounds. And he falls facedown, crying out, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?

God answered, “The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land; the LORD does not see.’ So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.”

And then the angel who was armed with a pen comes back, saying, “I have done as you commanded.”

So there is a remnant of Israel that survives after all. There were some people in the city who were horrified at what was going on all around them, people who were grieved by the desecration of God’s temple. The angel with the pen marked their foreheads, and the warrior angels passed over them so that they were saved from the judgement of death.

And, sure enough, Ezekiel’s nightmare vision came true. Just 5 or 6 years later the Babylonian empire came and completely destroyed the city of Jerusalem. One-third of the population died of disease during the seige; one-third died during the final battle after the walls fell; and one-third were scattered to the winds: carried into exile, saved from the judgement of death…but just barely.

And the prophets who came after Ezekiel understood why God’s judgement had to begin with God’s household, with God’s temple and God’s city: because Jerusalem was supposed to be an example to all the nations of what true worship looks like. And so the Old Testament prophets came to see this time in Israel’s history as a fiery trial — a fiery ordeal — designed to separate the true worshipers of Jerusalem from the false worshipers. The prophets came to understand that it was necessary for this cleansing fire to fall upon God’s nation first, taking God’s true worshipers out of the corrupted city, purifying them by turning them into exiles and refugees.

That way, after that holy remnant returned from their exile, they would truly live as an example to all the nations of what true worship looks like. The prophets believed that only after every nation has had an opportunity to see God’s true worshipers in action — so that they have no more excuses to reject God — only then will God move in judgement upon the rest of the nations.

But then, after that 1/3 remnant of Israel returned from their exile in Babylon…they continued to have trouble keeping their worship pure. They continued to have trouble living as an example of true worship for all the nations to follow.

And so the prophets came to believe that, in the future, it would be necessary for yet another fiery trial to fall upon Jerusalem, another fiery ordeal designed to separate the true worshipers from the false. The Spirit of God revealed to them that, when the promised Messiah finally came to save God’s people from slavery to the surrounding nations, he would actually have to begin by saving God’s people from themselves.

For instance, the prophet Malachi predicted that the Messiah will arrive suddenly at his temple, discover the corruption there just like Ezekiel did, and will immediately begin the process of judgement. Malachi says, “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire.”

But, at the same time, Malachi says, a scroll of remembrance was written in God’s presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. In other words, there will still be a faithful remnant in Jerusalem when that day comes, and God is going to spare them, just as he did in Ezekiel’s vision: “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them…and you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

But the Spirit also revealed that there would be an unexpected feature to this plan: the Messiah would begin his work of judging between true and false worshipers…but the false worshipers would rebel against this process — and they would actually succeed in killing the Messiah.

The prophet Zecharaiah was especially explicit about this: “Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the Lord Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones.”

So, Zechariah says, the people are going to strike down their own shepherd! And as a result of this sin and rebellion, Jerusalem will fall under judgement again, just as in Ezekiel’s time:

In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish, yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call upon my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ’The LORD is our God.’”

So the Old Testament prophets believed that, during the last days leading up to the final Judgement, these things would happen in this order:

First, the Messiah would arrive in Jerusalem and begin the fiery ordeal that would purify his people for the last time.

Second, Jerusalem would kill the Messiah in order to stop that fiery testing, so that they could continue practicing their false worship.

Third, their rebellion would just increase their fiery ordeal: Jerusalem would be destroyed. One-third of the population would die during the seige; one-third would die when the city fell. But one third would be marked off as holy to the Lord, their names written down in a scroll of remembrance.

And then: that last third would be scattered to the winds. And everywhere they go they will continue to be tested by God’s refining fire. And like flying sparks, everywhere they land they will start new refining fires of judgement among the nations of the world, fires that will continue to separate the true from the false right up until the end.

Now, last week we discovered that Peter believes that these are now the last days predicted by the Old Testament prophets: “The end of all things is near!” he told us, very clearly!

And it is just as clear that Peter believes his friends in Roman Asia are that final, surviving third of God’s people. From the beginning of his letter he has been calling them God’s elect exiles, God’s chosen refugees…God’s Scattered Ones.

Now, Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed at the time Peter wrote this letter. But Jesus himself said that it would be destroyed before that generation passed away. And Peter is able to read the signs as well as anyone else who is led by the Spirit of God: just as the Old Testament prophets said, the leadership of Jerusalem started by striking down their own Shepherd; then they began to strike down the Shepherd’s flock, scattering them to the winds. The whole reason there is a Church in Roman Asia is because God’s true worshipers were persecuted and driven out of Jerusalem in the first place!

If you want to, you can read that history in the Book of Acts, beginning in Chapter 8. Peter himself lived through those days, so he understands first-hand what is going on: the leaders of Jerusalem think they are cleansing the city of false worshipers, but actually they are setting things up so that — when the day of judgement finally falls on Jerusalem — there will only be false worshipers left there to destroy.

From the beginning of his letter, Peter has been saying, “You are the scattered remnant of God’s people, the survivors of God’s judgement on Jerusalem. Therefore,” he goes on today, beginning in verse 12, “dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you!”

After all, didn’t God say, through the prophet Zechariah, that during the last days he would put the remaining third of his people into the fire, refining them like silver and testing them like gold?

And it is clear, from the pattern of history, that the way God most often chooses to refine and test his people is by placing a small faithful population right in the middle of hostile nations. This was true before the flood, during the time of Noah; it was true after the flood, during the time of Abraham. ”And so,“ Peter is saying, “do not be surprised that this is true for us now!”

[13] Instead: rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Jesus lived and suffered as a righteous minority in the midst of wicked men. Jesus himself passed through a fiery ordeal at the hands of God’s enemies: he was refined like silver, tested like gold, and the bible tells us it was only after he had been proven perfect that he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

So, when these Christians of Roman Asia find themselves suffering as a righteous minority in the midst of the Roman empire, instead of rejecting this suffering as strange — instead of trying to become a majority, for instance, and bring an end to their discomfort — instead, they should rejoice in their minority status; they should rejoice that they are going through the same refining process Jesus did.

“But, in fact,” Peter says, “it’s even better than that: [14] If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”

In other words, when Christians pass through the fires of testing, they are not just participating in the sufferings of Christ: they are also participating in the Spirit of glory and of God. Suffering Christians are sharing in the bad stuff alongside Jesus, which is encouraging! — but they are also sharing in the good stuff, which is even more encouraging!

…but now we have a question, don’t we? Is Peter saying that suffering is actually good? That when evil is done to us, this is actually good? Is he saying that it is through being insulted that we are filled with the Holy Spirit?

No. The opposite, actually. Peter is saying that the Holy Spirit is good, and that it is because the Holy Spirit rests on us that evil is done to us in this world. Being insulted is evidence that the Spirit of glory and of God already rests upon us.

But there is more going on here than Peter just saying, “Having the Holy Spirit guarantees suffering; suffering proves you have the Holy Spirit”: when Peter says that ”the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you,” he is actually borrowing words from a prophecy that was almost 800 years old at that time.

In the Book of Isaiah, the prophet says that the Messiah is going to be born into the house of King David, and then he goes on to say this: The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.

And what is the Messiah going to do with this Spirit? He will raise a banner for the nations, and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth, and his resting place will be glorious, for the the earth will finally be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

The point Peter is making is not simply that these Christians of Roman Asia are suffering because they have the Holy Spirit; they are suffering because they have the same Spirit that rested upon their Messiah. This Spirit is a gathering Spirit: his main job is to call God’s scattered people back out of the nations where they were lost and bind them together again into one people.

And the nations, obviously, are going to hate a Spirit that insists on stealing their citizens away! They are going to strike back. They are going to try to strike down God’s Spirit by striking God’s people, just as they struck God’s Shepherd. That striking will scatter God’s people. But as they scatter, God’s people will be carrying embers of the Holy Spirit with them. And like flying sparks, everywhere they land they will start new refining fires of judgement, fires that will continue to sort out the true from the false, fires that will continue to call God’s scattered people back out of the nations where they were lost.

See: it is human nature for us to believe that, when bad things happen to us, when bad things happen to our churches, when we are slandered and insulted and rejected by the nations — when we no longer have a voice in our societies — then this must be evidence that we are failing to preach the Gospel faithfully, failing reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But Peter is saying that the opposite is true: it is exactly when we are insulted for the name of Christ that the scattering, gathering Holy Spirit of God is most powerfully at work amongst the nations. It is precisely when we are voiceless and powerless that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is most faithfully preached in our societies. It is in our failure and in our sufferings that we are actually the most blessed, the most effective at reaching the world for Christ.

”However,“ Peter goes on in verse 15, “it is important for you to suffer for the right reasons! [15] If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminalor even as a meddler. [16] However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

In the Roman empire, the label “Christian” was an insult. It was the same as calling someone anti-government, anti-economy, anti-family, anti-social, bigoted, narrow-minded, stupid, an enemy of mankind.

And apparently, some of the Christians in Roman Asia had taken it upon themselves to correct these false impressions. They were becoming what Peter calls “meddlers”: busy-bodies. And the word Peter uses for “meddler“ is quite a funny one: literally it means “taking charge of others”. It means “appointing yourself an elder”.

Apparently, some people in the Asian churches had appointed themselves elders: ”guardians of the public morality”. They had set out to prove that Christians are not anti-social. But instead of proving this through quiet, faithful behaviour — as Peter said they should — they were trying to prove it by going out there and taking charge of the public square. Apparently, their attitude was: “Let us guide you. We will organize things according to God’s proper order. And then you will see: Christianity is actually good for society!”

To put this word “meddler” in modern terms, we would say that some of Peter’s friends had become Christian activists.

And so it seems that Peter felt it necessary to say, “Don’t do that! First of all, that is not the example Jesus set for us: he did not try to take over society. Second, it is not going to work: you cannot brow-beat people into accepting God’s standards. Third: that is really annoying!

“Now, I get it, friends! You are trying to improve the reputation of Christianity…but actually you are making it worse. We are already known as an ‘anti-social’ religion; if you keep on going like this, we will become known as a loud and militant ‘anti-social’ religion.”

But as I think we know, busy-bodies and activists are quite hard to convince, because they are often the people with the strongest personalities. And having a strong personality is good! — if it can be harnessed and directed by God’s Word. So, knowing what he is up against, Peter uses a clever technique to help catch his friends’ attention.

He starts with things that they all agree with already: if you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal — and of course everyone in the church would be nodding and looking at each other, going, “Oh, yeah, far be it from us to participate in those kinds of evil behaviours!” — and then, after a pause, Peter says, “or…even as a meddler.”

And that is the moment when everyone is supposed to say, “…wait: what?! Did he just list ‘meddler’ as a sin right next to murder, theft, and criminal activity? But I thought we were doing good work here by getting involved and trying to make a difference in society!”

Peter is saying, “Yeah, you thought you were doing good. But God does not think so. And I really think you should adopts God’s standards.”

In other words: Peter is pointing out that at least some of his friends are not actually suffering as Christians, they are suffering because they are trying to change what “Christian” means. And Peter’s instructions for them are clear: if someone calls you a “Christian” — a narrow-minded, bigoted, anti-social monster — do not be ashamed of that! Do not try to correct them. Embrace the label! Praise God that you bear that terrible name, that terrible reputation. Because they said the same things about Jesus also! And did he retaliate? Did he argue? Did he threaten? No, he did not.

And why did Jesus refuse to fight back against the slander, the fiery ordeal that was coming upon him?

Because — verse 17 — it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household.

These are the last days of earth. This is our calling: to be gathered into one community, to be slandered and struck, to be scattered, to be regathered into new communities, to be slandered and struck again, to be scattered still further, to be regathered and struck and scattered — again and again — until the earth is finally filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

In other words: this fiery ordeal is not just God’s plan for refining his people, and purifying our worship — this is also God’s plan for evangelizing the world. Jesus did not fight back against his fiery ordeal because he understood that it was through his fiery trial that the world would be saved. In the same way, we Christians should not fight back against our fiery ordeal, because we understand that it is through our fiery trial that the world will be saved.

It is our Christian calling to take up the cross our Saviour carried. It is our Christian calling to be slandered and struck and scattered, to be passed through the fire and purified, so that by our true worship — even in the midst of terrible grief! — the world might see Christ and be saved.

But all this is a problem for us, isn’t it? When we are slandered, when we suffer, when our voice in society is taken away, we do think that something strange is happening to us! Most of us modern Christians believe that it is our calling to speak up, to make sure that Christianity “has a voice” in the public square. This is how we define evangelism today. And when we see large congregations multiplying across the land, when we see Christian bookstores filled with hundreds of thousands of titles, when we see Christian social media receiving millions of likes and re-shares, and even being noticed by main-stream secular media, we rejoice! Because this is how we define Christian success today. And when we see the laws of a land influenced by Christian values, so that God’s justice and blessing can begin to take hold in that nation, we think that we have accomplished what we were sent out to do!

But that is not what God has called us to. Now is not the time of glory for God’s household, now is the time for our judgement: our humiliation at the hands of the world…our purification at the hands of the Father who loves us more than we can begin to comprehend.

But I know that most of us have a pre-programmed objection to this idea. In our heads we are thinking, “But surely it is a good thing to work toward justice in our societies, right? Surely it is a good thing to resist patterns of corruption and injustice?”

And the answer is: yes! Of course. But how we accomplish this makes all the difference. If we resist injustice and work toward justice using God’s method, the results will be wonderful. But if we insist on doing this in our own way, guided by our corrupted human wisdom, the results will actually increase God’s judgement upon the earth.

Let me explain: have you noticed the pattern of history? Beginning with ancient Israel, every people group that has rejected the powerlessness of the Cross and instead seized power in order to legislate God’s good system of justice…every nation in history that has done this has — at first — reaped God’s great blessings of wealth and peace…and then lost the generations that followed, whole generations that decided they do not need God anymore, whole generations that are now waiting in dread for God’s final judgement.

So, is it truly a good thing to forcibly and aggressively work toward justice in our societies? Or is this something that looks good at first, and feels good — because it temporarily reduces our suffering — but in the long run results in more eternal suffering for more people?

…here is a more personal way to think about it perhaps:

If you were to give me a choice between A). living in a peaceful nation where the justice system works smoothly and fairly, or B). living in a contentious nation where corruption is the norm — well, the choice is obvious, right?

But what if you were to give me a glimpse of the future? What if you were to tell me that if I choose A, I will enjoy one generation of blessing and peace, but my children and grandchildren will reject my faith and fall under God’s judgement? And what if you were to tell me that if I choose B, I will suffer, my children and grandchildren will suffer, but in the end we will be overjoyed when the glory of Christ is finally revealed?

Well…in that case the choice is also obvious. Right?

But oh! the weight of it!

Oh, the weight of the Cross of Christ!

This is a hard road our Father is asking us to follow. But the road will be even harder for those who reject it. Because, as Peter says here: if judgement begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? [18] And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

If this refining judgement is designed to begin with us, but we do not obey, then what will the outcome be for those who do not obey? What will the outcome be for those among the nations — and among us! — who refuse to give up their obsession with power and prosperity and activism?

This is Peter’s warning for us today. Just as in the time of Ezekiel, God’s purifying judgement begins at his sanctuary, in his own house. And the reason it has to begin with us is because we are not yet pure. There are some people in the global church who call themselves “Christian” and yet are very obviously bowing down to the monstrous idols of power and prosperity. They call themselves “Christian” and yet they are very publically corrupt! They are “meddlers” who have worked their way into positions of power and influence, and they are publically defiling the reputation of Jesus Christ.

But we can be certain of this: just as in the time of Ezekiel, God’s avenging angels of judgement are not fooled by such people! They will reap terrible things from what they have sown.

But we know that the corruption of God’s household is not just out there, in those publically false “Christians”. We know that the corruption lies within us also: in our own hearts. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that we all struggle to resist the temptation toward safety and stability, wealth and a good reputation. We know that we all struggle to obey the gospel of God.

So our question is this: how can each of us know for sure that we are going to survive this judgement that has already begun with God’s household? How can we know for sure that God’s avenging angel is going to pass over us? How can we know for sure that we are among that final, surviving third of God’s people?

And that is a good question. That is the question we should continue to ask of ourselves. That is why Peter has just warned us in this way: so that we can pause and ask ourselves if we can truly be counted among the remnant who truly grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in the world.

So what is the answer? The answer is the Gospel itself, the Gospel that Peter has been preaching from the very beginning of his letter…the same Gospel that Ezekiel preached.

And that Gospel is this: God has marked the foreheads of all who belong to him. God has written down the names of each of his children in a scroll of remembrance. God has baptized his people with the sprinkled blood of Jesus Christ, and poured out his Holy Spirit upon them, and bound them together into one family — even as he has scattered them to the winds, and put them into the fire. So what this means is that, even though God’s people are the “Scattered Ones”, they have been scattered in groups, in families. No one who belongs to God travels alone through the valley of the shadow of death.

So, if you are here today and you are wondering if you are truly counted among the final, faithful third of God’s people, answer these questions:

First: are you travelling alone? — or have you been baptized into a local community, a local church, that is walking faithfully with you on this pilgrimage of faith?

If you are baptized and living faithfully in a church community, then that is a good start!

Second: is your community suffering as a Christian community? Meaning: are you part of a church that has publically accepted the label “Christian” even if that label itself has a terrible, slanderous reputation in society? Are you part of a church that rejoices at the fiery ordeal that has come to test them? — or are you part of a church that is surprised when bad things happen? A church that expects the world to reward them with praise and power and prosperity?

If you are part of a local community that actively participates in the sufferings of Christ, that consistently follows the path of rejoicing in the humility of bearing the name and the terrible reputation of Christ…then, brothers and sisters, be encouraged: our Father has counted you among the remnant.

See, the Gospel tells us that our salvation does not come through our perfect behaviour, our perfect worship. Our salvation comes through us being marked by the angel of the Lord, set apart from those who have chosen destruction for themselves. And the reality of God’s mark upon us is proven by the fire that follows.

In summary, this is what Peter is saying: if we truly belong to God, if we have truly been marked by God’s angel, if our names have truly been written down in that scroll of remembrance, if the Spirit has truly gathered us in from the four corners of the earth and made us one family of God…if we are truly are that final, surviving third of God’s people, then God will put us into the fire, just as he promised. He will refine us and make us perfect. So if we are suffering, rejoice! because this is the evidence that God is actually working among us, this is the evidence that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us all.

For the last few weeks, Peter has been painting a picture of reality for his friends in Roman Asia, a picture borrowed from Noah’s situation. In his picture, the acid rain of God’s judgement is already falling upon the Roman empire; people are already drowning in the rising flood of their own sins — and many don’t even know it. In Peter’s picture, the Church is an ark being built up as a sanctuary in the midst of judgement, and Christians are like the crew whose duty it is to care for the Church and prepare it for departure, whose duty it is to practice being a crew, a team, a well-oiled machine that is also a loving family. And the beauty of this crew and this sanctuary is supposed to catch the attention of people from all the surrounding nations and draw them in through the open doors so that they too might be “marked safe” from the flood.

Today, Peter has changed the focus of his picture. His friends’ situation is a lot like Noah’s situation…it is also a lot like Ezekiel’s situation. And so is ours.

Noah’s ark in the midst of Cain’s corrupt civilization was a preview of Jesus’ Church in the midst of our world’s corrupt civilizations. The temple in Jerusalem in the midst of the city of Jerusalem is also a preview of Jesus’ Church. We are here — in Jesus’ ark, in Jesus’ temple — and the judgement has already begun. But in the Noah’s ark situation, the flood waters of judgement are rising on the outside of the ark; in the Ezekiel’s temple situation, the sword of God’s judgement begins on the inside: it begins among us.

Why? Because, in both examples, the doors of God’s sanctuary are still open: the doors of the ark are open, the doors of the temple are open. The example of Noah’s ark is very simplified, very black and white: God decides who goes in and who does not, and there are no mistakes. And this is truly the way it happens in Christ’s Church: there are no false worshipers in the true Church.

But the example of Ezekiel’s temple is more nuanced…more true to the way things are in our physical world. Spiritually, there are no false worshipers in Jesus’ Church; but physically speaking, anyone can come in through doors of God’s house and call themselves a Christian.

And this is why purification is necessary. This is why God’s judgement must begin with his own household, and why that fire must continue to burn through every generation of God’s people until the very last day.

So we are like the crew of Jesus’ ark, preparing, practicing for the transition from Earth 2.0 to Earth 3.0.

But we are also like Ezekiel, standing horrified in the courtyard of God’s temple: horrified by the monstrous idolatry that is pretending to be true worship, and then even more horrified when we see the purifying judgement that God brings down upon his own house! Like Ezekiel, there are times when we find ourselves falling facedown, crying out, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the whole Church in this outpouring of your wrath on the world?”

And our Father’s answer, of course, is: no. In fact, this outpouring of wrath is actually saving the Church. This purifying fire is actually saving us from the false worshipers in our midst — so that we can see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. And this fire is actually saving us from ourselves.

[19] So then, Peter says in closing, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

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